There are things I love about each season. January was COLD. Cold, cold, cold. Like -20 below cold at times. Which most people hate, truth be told. They didn’t move to Montana to live like icicles. But I secretly love it. Of course, I would never tell people that. Complaining about the weather is a common bonding experience. But I do love it. Mostly because we love being outdoors. We love going hiking, to the lake, camping, and just playing at the park. Every half decent day, we feel this strong moral obligation to get outside. Like we are wasting this amazing gift if we don’t. Even if it’s just to hang out in our backyard, drink tea and coffee under our apple trees and watch the kids play on the trampoline. Every season brings it’s own “you can’t waste this kind of day!” yearnings. Long hikes in the spring. Digging in the garden. Or hot summer days that make you feel horrible if you aren’t at the lake throwing rocks. Ah, but when it’s -20 below. No obligation. No strong moral dilemma. I can look at the freezing blizzard happening outside and very happily toss on my cardigan and fuzzy slippers and get to work.
So January was awesome! Not counting giving, our expenses for the month were $1771. That includes the $150 to Mr. Mt and my auto deposit to our separate “fun money” accounts. Mine is overflowing at this point, with over $2,000 just waiting for me. This month I actually spent a little of it. After 12 months of not buying clothes, I picked up 4 tee shirts, 2 tank tops, 2 leggings and of course, a cardigan. Because I have a one-in-one-out rule, the same number of items had to leave my closet.
Sometimes people worry about what will happen after they gain more financial independence. Will they be bored? Will their life start to lack meaning? Or become monotonous? Or what would happen if they left the 9-5 before they 100% sure had enough money to never work again? Would that work be such a bummer and cramp their ER lifestyle? But we have experienced the complete opposite. We have found, with more freedom and flexibility, more cool opportunities open up.
Here is a sample of what January looked like:
I committed each Friday to making progress on our house projects. Mainly the bathroom remodel. And it has paid off. Now there are just a few finishing touches to handle. But I set all the accent tile for the floor and tiled the shower, which was terrifying! I had never worked with tile, thin set or grout before. In this first picture, I am so blasting excited that it is even working! And yes, I have a renovation/painting cardigan. =)
House Maintenance: $67.52
I took on more freelance writing work, writing blog posts for small businesses. It’s been fun to help craft other’s message and brand. Plus, I feel like I am taking this huge weight off their shoulders by handling something so daunting for them. I finally was able to put together offers for the MMA community for mentoring and consults. It was fun to chat with a few people and see those light bulb moments! Chatting with people about their money, goals, dreams and ideal lifestyle might be the funnest way to spend my “work” time ever! I also gave a speech for MOPS (Moms of Preschoolers) about how to create rest.
In this picture we were heading back from the presentation. It’s only -13 below this day, so I could wear leggings with a dress. =)
Mr. Mt took a ski day. He had used his fun money to buy new skis that were clearanced last summer. He was thrilled to get to test those out. Since leaving his 9-5, he has been able to work out 90 minutes a day, 5 days a week. One of his big motivations for pushing so hard in the gym is skiing. He just loves it! Now he can go on a Tuesday morning, and it works out great for everyone. The ski hill is empty, plus it doesn’t eat into our weekend family time. We have a great ski hill here in the Flathead Valley. Plus they offer 50% off ski tickets for veterans. So even with buying a little food, and drink his total cost for the day came to $51.50.
We had one weekend with decent weather at the end of the month, so we did a little family hike. I’ve never known a baby to love being outside so much. So he was smiling the entire time!
I did two get together’s with some girl friends. One was a girls trip to some local hot springs. We bought a few punch cards last year when they went on sale, so I covered the cost for everyone. Honestly, it gets hard in this season of life to make time (kid free) to connect with friends. But since we left the 9-5, it’s something I make time for every month. There are so many free or low cost ways to get out of the house and connect for a few hours with friends.
Mr. Montana decided to take a few more classes at the local community college. There are so many things he is interested in, and it’s been great for him to dabble in the trades. This semester he is taking metal lathing and welding. When he started his last job, they explicitly said he could not take any classes while working there. The work and hours were very demanding and couldn’t accommodate even one class. The Post 9-11 GI bill he earned during his military service will expire in a few years. So it’s been great that he can use a bit of it. Not only does it pay 100% of his class cost, but provides a housing stipend. This semester it will add an extra $950 a month in our pocket. Last semester it was $1200 a month. He spends 2 days a week doing that between class time and school work.
Blogging takes about 20 hours a week for me. In January, I was able to write about 20,000 words. Writing words for you all, responding to comments and emails is an amazing part of my week. Even though I am an introvert, I really, really love people. Working mainly from home has been really ideal for me. I get to save all my relational energy for the people I most want to connect with, talk to, or spend time with. I worked in commission sales for a long time, and after working with random people all day, surrounded by coworkers, my introverted self was exhausted.
I also took a trip, with just Mr. Mt and the baby, to Missoula. I met with a potential professional mentor. A blogger, book writer and podcaster I really admire. If you have ever drove the road from the Flathead valley, along Flathead lake, to Missoula, you’ll know it’s one of the prettiest you’ll ever see. I love road trips. The quiet, the time to talk, the time to stare out at this amazing scenery and just brainstorm and dream. My best ideas happen on long car rides. We were able to make the trip between the time we dropped the kids off at school and when we pick them up. So we didn’t have to pay any extra for childcare. Between this trip, our normal driving and the hot springs trip, our gas for our van was a bit higher than our normal post work. But still lower than when we both worked.
Car Gas: $130
In February, we have been talking more about financial independence. Creating more choice and freedom. Separating great work from the 9-5. January was bursting with things we love! Classes, writing, helping people, connecting with friends, road trips, projects, skiing, creating things, a speaking engagement and we even snuck in that winter hike. Some things might count as work. A few we were paid for. But the number 1 reason it all was there, was because we love it. It’s meaningful to us. Enjoyable. Important. Every month looks a little different. It looks however we want it to look.
Our food bill also includes all our other household products, like garbage bags, cleaning supplies, laundry detergents, toilet paper or paper towels. We buy all this at Costco, so if we run out of a few items in one month it can kind of distort the cost. That was one factor in the cost being a bit higher than normal. The other was we stock up on protein bars twice a year when the go on sale. We almost never eat fast food as a convenience, and a protein bar is our go to if we find ourselves hungry while out running errands. When they go on sale, we can get them for .63 cents a piece (30 grams of protein). For us, it’s an easier, and more satisfying option (plus cheaper!). We spent about $100 on those, which should last us about 6-12 months.
Our natural gas bill (which heats our home) is averaged out during the year, so our utilities don’t spike in the winter.
We go through about a box of diapers ($23 on Amazon with subscribe and save) and a box of wipes ($20) each month. Plus we spent $4 for some new tooth brushes for the kids at the dollar store and $7 on a trip to McDonald’s to let the kids run around and play (a favorite -20° activity.)
We bought Cheesy Taco a bag of food and a clearance Christmas sweater. He is small (12 lbs) and eats WAY too many pieces of food that fall on the floor from all 5 kids (sometimes Honey Badger does this intentionally!) so that bag lasts him about 3-5 months. Our total dog cost might be $10 a month (including treats), but considering how clean he keeps my floors, he should be earning an allowance!
Car Maintenance: $28
We needed new windshield wipers. Apparently they were old and brittle and just snapped in the crazy cold. Mr Mt assured me that $14 a wiper was the mid price option. Seems like a lot for a little piece of rubber, but what do I know?
We probably should have broken up this receipt into the proper categories, but apparently I was feeling lazy this day. This was trip to a craft store where we stocked up on clearance hand soap in “Christmas” scents. Plus we bought some clearance craft paper for the kids. After we went all minimalism on their toys, they spend a lot more time coloring, folding origami and making paper airplanes. We don’t do a lot of craft supplies (mostly because that can get crazy messy as well) but we keep lots of paper, crayons, markers and scissors.
For the first few years we were married and paying off debt, I avidly tracked our expenses. It’s been great to start again this last year and a half.
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How was your January? Any negative digits?
Ever set tile before? How did I do?
What might you fill a month with if you didn’t have a 9-5?